TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Kole Cottam connected on his 11th home run of the season and Sean Hjelle tossed seven solid innings but it wasn’t enough as Kentucky fell 4-2 in the first of a three-game series against Alabama at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The No. 6 Wildcats fell behind early and weren’t able to get over the hump in dropping to 18-8 overall and 2-5 in Southeastern Conference play.
The Crimson Tide (16-10, 2-5) entered the evening on a seven-game losing streak but strung together a couple of hits in both the second and third innings to grab a 3-1 lead it would never relinquish. An infield hit, triple and RBI groundout plated a pair of runs in the second and another run-scoring groundout after a single and double tacked on a run in the third.
Meanwhile, the UK offense had a frustrating evening. The Cats stranded nine runners, including at least one in each of the first six innings, despite numerous hard-hit balls in the early innings. Cottam’s home run pulled the Cats within 3-2 in the sixth but they could get no closer against an Alabama bullpen that has been the strongest part of its club this season.
Hjelle settled in after the first three innings, retiring 11 of 13 hitters in the middle innings before a two-out, two-strike single by Cobie Vance plated a run in the seventh. For the second straight outing, Hjelle did not walk a batter and struck out seven.
Top 2nd – Ryan Johnson singled to LF. Luke Heyer reached on a fielding error by the SS, with Johnson moving to second. Trey Dawson singled to CF, scoring Johnson. UK 1, Alabama 0.
Bottom 2nd – Chandler Avant reached on an infield hit and scored on Joe Breaux’s triple into the RF corner. Hunter Alexander grounded out the 2B, scoring Breaux. Alabama 2, UK 1.
Bottom 3rd – Cobie Vance singled to CF, moved to third on Chandler Taylor’s double to RF and scored on Avant’s ground out to 2B. Alabama 3, UK 1.
Top 6th – Kole Cottam homered to RCF. Alabama 3, UK 2.
Bottom 7th – Sam Praytor singled past third base, moved to second on a SAC bunt, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Vance’s single to CF. Alabama 4, UK 2.
- The offense has …
o Hit a home run in 24 of 26 games this season.
o Racked up 115 extra-base hits
- Several Cats extended impressive reached base safely streaks…
o Junior OF Tristan Pompey has reached in 56 of the last 58 games.
o Senior INF Luke Becker has reached in all 26 games.
o Senior C/1B Troy Squires has reached in 25 of 26 games this season.
o Junior OF Ben Aklinski has reached in 20 of the last 21 games.
- Junior RHP Sean Hjelle went 7.0 innings, giving up nine hits, four runs, walking none and striking out seven.
o Hjelle has struck out 14 and walked none is his past two starts.
- Junior C/1B Kole Cottam went 2-for-4 with a solo home run.
o He now has a career-high 11 home runs on the season and 19 for his career.
o He has 10 multi-hit games this season and 36 for his career.